Farmington students take to the woods to learn sustainable living skillsPublished on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 12:12 am | Last updated on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 7:07 pm
TEMPLE — On a misty Thursday morning when most of his classmates were sipping from juice boxes at school, third-grader Adam Loeuen was learning to quench his thirst from a bubbling spring deep in the Maine woods.
Loeuen, along with 40 classmates from the W.G. Mallett School in Farmington, spent the day at the Koviashuvik Local Living School, a small working homestead off Lake Drive. During their morning in the forest, Loeuen and his fellow students learned to bottle and purify water, make fire with a bow and spindle, and brew tea with wild mint leaves.
“I love the outdoors, and out here’s really a lot of the outdoors,” Loeuen said after using a wooden ladle to draw water from a crystal-clear spring. “I just basically like it here because you don’t have to go to the store and buy stuff.”
Living without the conveniences of modern life is something the students know a lot about, having studied the 1850s earlier this year. After learning about natural resources and recycling this spring, the Thursday field trip helped bring those lessons to life.
“Any time you can give them a hands-on experience, it’s wonderful,” third-grade teacher Julia Hennessy said. “You can talk about things, but when they experience it, they really get it.”
That experience is a fact of everyday life for Chris and Ashirah Knapp, who operate the Koviashuvik Local Living School and live on the Temple homestead with their two young children. As the Knapps led the students around their property Thursday, the third-graders marveled at the couple’s earthen root cellar, ice house, and the cabin they built with locally harvested materials. The Knapps relished the opportunity to teach the students about their own unorthodox way of life.
“We’re not living way back here on a dead-end road to get away from people,” Ashirah Knapp said. “We’re living back here practicing something that we’ve found a lot of happiness and joy and meaning in. Most other people find that happiness and joy and excitement also, so this is a good place for us to share that.”
For the Knapps, happiness is all about living sustainably. And while their lifestyle may seem like a throwback to the 19th century, they aren’t shy about using modern technology that allows them to reach their sustainable goals. With the help of one modern tool — solar panels — the students were able to wash their hands with heated rainwater before lunch.
The highlight of the field trip involved a much older form of sustainable technology, however. With the help of several students, Chris Knapp used a bow and spindle to start a fire with a technique as old as human history. As the students pulled and pushed the bow and smoke rose from the base of the spindle, all 40 students erupted in cheers.
It’s that spark — and a love for sustainability — that the Knapps hope will catch.
“We all have a strong effect on the environment, but we can make it a good effect through our choices, versus a negative effect,” Ashirah Knapp said. “That’s what we want to teach people, so that people have a feeling of hope, not of discouragement.”